Potential Health

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People who eat predominantly olive oil have lower blood fat and cholesterol and a reduced risk of clogged arteries. Olive oil seems to lower blood levels of the less desirable form of CHOLESTEROL, LOW-DENSITY LIPOPROTEIN (LDL), while raising the level of HIGH-DENSITY LIPOPROTEIN (HDL), the more desirable kind of cholesterol. If the intake of polyunsaturates increases substantially above 7 percent of daily calories, the current average, polyunsaturated oils lower LDL (a desirable effect) but also lower HDL (an undesirable effect). By following current dietary guidelines that call for eating less fat (less than 30 percent of total calories) and less saturated fat (less than 10 percent of calories), people necessarily increase their consumption of unsaturates. Substituting monounsaturated oils for saturates and polyunsaturated fats and oils may be desirable while decreasing total fat consumption because high consumption of polyunsaturates is more likely to promote the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, the less desirable form, thus increasing the probability that oxidized LDL will be taken up by blood vessels and create plaque in arteries. Furthermore, animal studies suggest polyunsaturates can increase the risk of some forms of cancer. Cooking with olive oil instead of polyunsaturated vegetable oils (safflower oil, corn oil, etc.) may be advantageous because olive oil does not break down as readily when heated.

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